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There are two key components to any health club business: retaining members and gaining new members. Sales requires patience, strong interpersonal skills, customer service, perseverance and of course, the ability to sell. It can be a tricky skill to master.
To help, Sheri Warren, the director of sales and retention at Greenwood Athletic and Tennis Club in Denver, Colorado, shared a few best practices for membership sales that she has gleaned over the years.
Tactic One: Foster Relationships
From the moment a potential member walks through the door at Greenwood, they are greeted with a smile and a friendly face. They will begin by meeting with a membership advisor, who will ask them basic questions such as how they heard about Greenwood, what brought them to the club, if they had a particular goal in mind and so on.
“You want to be able to personalize the tour so that you are not just showing them things they have no interest in,” explained Warren. “I think people make the mistake by just doing a ‘point and tell’ tour. Every club has a treadmill — you don’t have to tell people that. I think if you walk in front of people, don’t ask them questions and don’t stop to listen to them when they are telling you things to make them feel comfortable, that is a mistake.”
By listening to each potential member’s goals and desires, it is easier to adjust the tour based on their needs. “You have to figure out if this is someone who might feel intimidated by a big athletic club, or do they appear super fit and know what they are looking for?” added Warren. “Are they a business professional that only has a few minutes of time? If so, you want to show them you respect that. You have to adjust to them and let them know that you recognize those things.”
Tactic Two: Ditch the Hard Sell
Many clubs will offer potential members special discounts, such as “join today to waive your joining fee.” According to Warren, this is a mistake. She explained not offering discounts like this has benefited Greenwood because each member at the club knows that every other member has paid the joining fee. “We try to be very consistent with those practices,” added Warren. “I think sometimes people play with that too much, and then you lose your integrity as a club. It is part of our business model and it is something that helps us provide members with the best service.”
It is not about convincing potential members that your club is simply the best price, but the best value. It is through a high-level of customer service and attention to detail that will reflect the value of the club, rather than price. “If you are going to help them achieve their goals, then the value shows up,” said Warren. “Our membership advisors here can feel very confident that we are providing members with a wonderful product and can assure them that they will receive the highest level of service. When you believe in what you are presenting, you don’t feel like you need to negotiate them down in price. You don’t have to convince them to join.”
Tactic Three: Show Off a Little
If you’ve got it, flaunt it. Take pride in your facility and make sure potential members see all of the great programs and services you can provide them. Warren suggested making cleanliness a priority, as well as equipment maintenance. You don’t want to take potential members on a tour when there are signs on multiple pieces of equipment saying “out of order.”
“Right at the very beginning of the tour we have some areas that we recently upgraded and I am able to state that,” added Warren. “I can immediately give them the reinforcement that one of the core values of our club is continuous improvement. Even though the company is 29 years old, they are going to notice that we are constantly upgrading the facility, whether it be programming, equipment, flooring, lighting or all of those things, to stay at the cutting-edge of the industry. They immediately see that we reinvest in the club and they don’t have to worry that it is going to get run down.”